Monday, October 25, 2010

Suzuki and Talent

If the Suzuki method has proven that a toddler can acquire excellence in musical performance the way he learns a language, why can't we extend the logic to musical composition? A daughter seeing her father having fun working calculus problems on a page will, without a doubt, turn out to be great at math. So, maybe it's that, and not his genes, that allowed Mozart to be writing those symphonies at 3. Or whatever. (In the words of Michael Flanders, "I very much wanted to play the music of Mozart, in particular his wonderful horn concerto in E flat, which he wrote at about the age of 18 months. Marvelous man.")

Suzuki's brilliance lay in one core idea—mimesis. Children can pick up a language when they're one year and two years old, becoming fluent in a tongue high school students in a different country spend years and undesirable toil to accomplish the same thing. What allows toddlers to do that?

Suzuki said it was seeing their parents do it. When a child sees his mother and father using language, he wants in on it. He can see the pleasure and the utility that results from language, so he imitates, with no textbook knowledge of grammar, of phonetics, idioms, or anything. Only his ear. Suzuki, therefore, insisted that parents take lessons with their children. You can see the result—the 4-year-old who would never practice before would be jumping up and down, throwing a tantrum because his mother got to practice and he didn't.

So, can we try the same thing with composition?

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